Fish and vegetables are a fabulous combination. We've already posted about fish and potatoes—a classic–as well as the less well-known fish and fennel. Now that spring is here, let's take a look at another great pairing: fish and artichokes. Like the other combinations we've seen, the method is very simple: braise the vegetables on top of the stove, then layer them around a whole fish (or fillets) and roast in a hot oven until the fish is done. Hard to beat for simplicity or great flavor. And, of course, it's really good for you. How many times do we have the chance to combine virtue and pleasure?
Ingredients (to serve 4)
4 small to medium sized whole fish, cleaned and scaled
8-12 small artichokes
8 small to medium waxy potatoes
1-2 garlic cloves (or shallots), chopped
Salt and pepper
Trim the artichokes (see this post for instructions) one by one, immersing them in acidulated water as you go to prevent them from discoloring. Peel the potatoes and immerse them in water as well.
Cut the artichokes and potatoes into thin wedges and add them to a wide skillet with a generous pour of olive oil. Season generously with salt and pepper. Toss the artichoke and potato wedges around so they absorb a bit of the olive oil, then add a glassful of water and cover the skillet. Braise the vegetables until they have softened but retain some 'bite'. Uncover and let any remaining liquid evaporate. Add the chopped garlic (or shallot) and sauté very briefly. Taste and adjust for seasoning—the mixture should be very savory.
In a greased baking dish large enough to hold all your fish, scatter some of the potato and artichoke wedges around the bottom. Season the fish inside and out, then lay them in the dish, covering them with the remaining potato and artichokes wedges. Drizzle everything with some white wine and then a bit more olive oil.
Place in a pre-heated hot oven (200°C/400°F) (use convection heat if you have that feature) and roast until the fish is done, about 15-20 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fish. Let the dish cool for a few minutes and serve immediately, right from the baking dish.
NOTES: In Italy, the most common fish for this treatment are probably branzino and orata (sea bream), but it works with just about any fish you want to try. Last night I served rainbow trout and it was perfectly delicious.
Little 'baby' artichokes, to my mind, work best—and are quite easy to trim as they are tender to begin with—but if you can only find the large 'globe' kind, they will work fine so long as you take care to trim them properly so the wedges are entirely edible; larger artichokes can be quite fibrous. As for the potatoes, make sure they are of the firm-fleshed, waxy variety—the ones you would use for potato salad, so they keep their shape and texture after cooking.
The measurements given, by the way, are really only suggestions. You can use more vegetables if you want to 'stretch' the (or just like them) or less if you want to focus on the fish, more potatoes vs. artichokes or vice versa, or even just artichokes if you like. Just make sure the veggies are well seasoned—and don't skimp on the oil, either, as it is essential for getting the right results.